At one time Taekwondo was probably the most practiced martial art in the world. Today it isn’t as popular as it was being overshadowed by BJJ and MMA, but still has a large following.

It’s still amazing that a martial art like Taekwondo that’s less than 100 years old is practiced worldwide. Not only that, but became a recognized Olympic sport.

Although, there is one thing that can be a bit confusing about Taekwondo and that is the ranking system. Since we broke down BJJ’s ranking system, we should also break down other ranking systems including the one in Taekwondo.

If you ever wanted to know about the Taekwondo belt system, then this is an article you need to read. We’ll break down each belt level along, with how long it takes to progress to each belt.

What are the Taekwondo belt ranks?

This question is a little harder to answer than with the BJJ belt system. With the BJJ everyone uses the same belt system just with different requirements depending on the affiliation.

It’s a little bit trickier in Taekwondo, because the belt rank depends on which affiliation the school is in. There’s numerous Taekwondo organizations in the world, but there are three that are the biggest.  World Taekwondo and the International Taekwondo Federation and ATA Martial Arts.

World Taekwondo’s belt ranking system:

  • White 
  • Yellow
  • Orange with yellow stripe
  • Green
  • Green with blue stripe
  • Blue
  • Blue with black stripe or blue sr.
  • Brown
  • Red 
  • Black

International Taekwondo belt ranking system:

  • White
  • White with gold stripe
  • Gold
  • Gold with green stripe
  • Green
  • Green with blue stripe
  • Blue with red stripe
  • Red
  • Red with black stripe
  • Black

ATA Martial Arts belt ranking system:

  • White
  • Orange
  • Yellow
  • Camo
  • Green
  • Purple
  • Blue
  • Brown
  • Red
  • Black

As you can see Taekwondo’s belt system is quite a bit more complicated than Jiu Jitsu’s 5 ranks. Since World Taekwondo is the biggest out of these organizations, we’ll go over their belt system.

How do you get promoted in Taekwondo?

Another way Taekwondo’s system is vastly different from Jiu Jitsu’s is how you get promoted to each rank. In Jiu Jitsu, you rank up by developing your technique and frequently attending class.

Within Taekwondo, you go through an exam for each belt that involves 6 different tests to be promoted.

  1. Poomsaes/Patterns: Poomsaes or patterns are a mixture of punch kicks and blocks Taekwondo students must learn, They go from basic to more complicated as you get to higher ranks.
  2. Sparring: How you perform in sparring dictates if you will be promoted to your next rank. In World Taekwondo, this is very important due to WT’s focus being primarily on sport Taekwondo competition.
  3. Conditioning: You must show that you are in good physical shape in order to be promoted. This could include doing a number of push ups, sit-ups, running a certain distance. Also throwing a certain number of kicks within a certain time limit.
  4. Flexibility: Much like within 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu, good flexibility is a must in Taekwondo. Being able to do the splits is a must in serious Taekwondo schools.
  5. Self Defense: In your belt test you must demonstrate self defense techniques including counters to grabs.
  6. Knowledge Test: More traditional Taekwondo schools may even quiz their students’ knowledge during their belt test. This is to show that they understand and grasp the concept of the martial art.

How long does it take to get promoted?

This is another gray area as no one school promotes their students the same as another. Some Taekwondo schools will hold belt tests every four months, while traditional schools wait even longer. At six months or more.

Also as you go up to the higher ranks, the period between each promotion gets longer. Especially with you reaching the rank of black belt and have to wait years and years between promotions.

Belt requirements

Below is a list of requirements within World Taekwondo’s belt exams. Each school has their own requirements, but it is based on the basic guidelines of WT.

Yellow belt exam

  • Poomsae: All 18 movements of the poomsae Taeguk il Jang.(pattern 1)
  • Techniques: Sidekick, lunging sidekick, and front kick to the upper body.
  • Self Defense: 3 techniques including 2 wrist grab counters, and palm strike counter from a collar grab.
  • Sparring: 1 minute round of sparring
  • Fitness: At least 15 reps of push ups, squats, and abdominals.
  • Test of knowledge: Know what the yellow belt stands for, and the 5 tenets of Taekwondo.

Orange with yellow stripe belt exam

  • Poomsae: Taeguk EE jang(Pattern 2)
  • Techniques: 360 roundhouse, turning back kick, and  lunging lead roundhouse
  • Self Defense: The techniques of the previous belt plus a submission from a single collar grab.
  • Sparring: 2, 1 minute rounds of sparring.
  • Fitness: 20 reps of push ups, squats, and abdominals.
  • Test of knowledge: What is the meaning of this belt’s poomsae and explain why students yell ki-up during practice.

Green belt exam

  • Poomsae: Taeguk sam jang (Pattern 3)
  • Techniques: Jumping sidekick, jumping front kick, roundhouse to the head.
  • Self defense: 5 techniques including the 4 previous and a rear collar grab counter.
  • Sparring: 2, 1 minute rounds.
  • Fitness: 25 reps of push ups, squats, and abdominals
  • Test of knowledge: Meaning of green belt, pattern 3, and name the 2 major governing bodies of Taekwondo.

Green with blue stripe exam

  • Poomsae: Taeguk sah jang (Pattern 4)
  • Techniques: Axe kick(3 variations), crescent kick, side kick to the chin.
  • Self defense: 6 techniques which are the last 5 techniques and headlock defense.
  • Sparring: 2, 1 minute rounds.
  • Fitness: 30 reps of push ups, squats, and abdominals
  • Test of knowledge: What is the meaning of this belt’s pattern and when was World Taekwondo formed.

Blue belt exam

  • Poomsae: Taegok oh jang (Pattern 5)
  • Techniques: Hook kick,spinning hook kick, and turning back kick to the head.
  • Self defense: 7 techniques including 6 previous and a bear hug counter.
  • Sparring: 2, 1 minute rounds.
  • Fitness: 35 reps of push ups, squats, and abdominals.
  • Test of knowledge: The meaning of blue belt, pattern 4, and the symbols of Taekwondo.

Brown belt exam

  • Poomsae: Taegeuk Yuk Jang (Pattern 6)
  • Techniques: Push kick, double round kick, step in turn sidekick.
  • Self defense: 8 techniques, 7 previous and front choke defense.
  • Sparring: 3, 1 minute rounds.
  • Fitness: 40 reps of push ups, squats, and abdominals.
  • Test of knowledge: Meaning of this belt, it’s pattern, and why you must  stretch in Taekwondo.

Red belt exam

  • Poomsae: Taegeuk Chil Jang(Pattern 7)
  • Techniques: jumping roundhouse, double side kick, front kick/back kick combo.
  • Self defense: 9 techniques including the 8 previous and ground choke defense.
  • Sparring: 3, 1 minute rounds.
  • Fitness: 45 reps of push ups, squats, and abdominals.
  • Test of knowledge: Meaning of this belt, its pattern, difference between aerobic and anaerobic.

Black belt exam

  • Poomsae: Taegeuk Pal Jang (Pattern 8)
  • Techniques: Jumping back kick, jumping spinning hook kick, Sidekick to punch combos.
  • Self defense: 10 techniques including the 9 previous and weapon defense technique.
  • Sparring: 3, 1 minute rounds
  • Fitness: 50 reps of push ups, squats, and abdominals
  • Test of knowledge: What does it mean to be a Taekwondoblack belt and why did you want to achieve this rank? Also what is your new goal?

How long does it take to get a Taekwondo black belt?

From the World Taekwondo website, they say that the average time it takes to reach black is at least 3 years. That is only if you are doing the maximum hours of training sessions each month.

The average time of training to get your black belt in this time frame is 40 hours of training per month. Meaning you do not miss a single class and are in the school everytime there is class.

To speed up this process, you could either compete frequently or just have the natural talent to earn a blackbelt.

The stigma of the Taekwondo belt system

Taekwondo is a great martial art, but like with Karate it has had a bad stigma attached to it. The martial art became widely popular in the 1980s and 90s becoming one of the most practiced systems in the world.

Unfortunately the popularity came with con artists that tried to take advantage of Taekwondo’s popularity. They would open schools that the martial arts community would refer to as “mcdojos.”

Within these mcdojos, they would promise students a blackbelt within a year or two whether it was deserved or not. This practice tarnished the legitimacy of the martial art and they’ve been fighting for respect ever since.

Thankfully, there have been high level Taekwondo fighters that translated to MMA and kickboxing and have had great success. Fighters like former UFC champ Anthony Pettis, Sergio Pettis, Raymond Daniels, and Michael “venum” Page. 

They have helped bring legitimacy back to Taekwondo and show that it is an effective fighting art. Everytime they fight, they leave fight fans on the edge of their seats waiting for a highlight reel finish.